Diet Breaks and How to Keep the Weight Off For Good

Written by Tihomir Stefanov, M.S.(C), PT

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Wondering when to take a diet break? Or maybe you’ve lost a lot of fat and want to know how to keep the weight off for good?

With the modern-day, sedentary lifestyle, that also offers an abundant choice of processed foods, exercising and having a culture of eating, is a higher form of self-respect.

Then again, we don’t really need to give all our time and attention to the healthy lifestyle.

The popular belief is that getting and staying in shape is really hard and requires you to completely forget about favorite foods or activities.

Truth is however that the joy of moving, combined with a variety of good foods, will not only improve the way you look, but the overall quality of life as well.

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Crash dieting

crash dieting

While what I said was pretty generic, I want to touch on a specific subject for today’s article.

That is namely crash dieting.

As mentioned, people nowadays take it to the extremes!

It’s either

  • You eat nothing and are “fit”
  • You eat whatever you want and are fat

People just can’t seem to figure how to balance their nutrition in lesser favor of calorie-dense foods, in order to yield results.

But it’s all about that sustainable plan.

We all know that while we are losing weight, the metabolism slows down.

One of the reasons is the loss of lean body mass, which, by the way, you can see how to preserve in our article called “Preventing muscle loss when losing fat”.

The other reason is that the body just becomes more efficient if we stay in a deficit longer.

The total daily energy expenditure drops, and what was once a deficit for you, has now become your maintenance.

You further deprive yourself of food to lose those last bits of belly fat and once you reach your desired shape, which was nothing like you imagined, you suddenly cut on the diet.

In the next couple of weeks, you binge on your favorite foods and proceed to gain 100% of the weight back and feel broken mentally and physically.

Does that sound familiar to you…?

If that’s the case, it is time for you to implement DIET BREAKS and make your weight loss journey sustainable and smooth.

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When should a diet break be implemented?

Metabolic adaptations may sound like a lot of science, but if I have to explain this simply, I’ll repeat what I just said above – The longer you stay in a caloric deficit (required for weight loss) and the more weight you lose, the less energy your body requires to maintain its mass.

That’s why, at one point of the diet, no matter what, we have to further reduce food intake to lose fat.

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This is exactly where the diet breaks come into play, as they are a valuable tool to get yourself both a psychological and physiological break from the “trap”of the caloric deficit.

We know that it’s not really easy to adhere and sustain a deficit of energy on a day to day basis.

However, unlike most people who want quick results, what we’re trying to create is a rather sustainable plan, which we can stick to in the long term, without damaging the body.

You know, it’s all about health and wellness.

In 90% of cases, irrational dieting, caused by ignorance on the topic, leads to the yo-yo effect, where you gain all if not more of your fat back.

A diet break helps the rate of your metabolism go back closer to your starting TDEE point and it also helps you psychologically.

Now, a diet break doesn’t mean eating whatever you want and totally binging.

It simply implies getting back closer to the maintenance calories and sustaining that.

Not more, not less. It’s just a controlled rebound.

How do I not break my diet?

how to not break a diet

As you diet down for some time, odds are that your maintenance calories will have dropped, as the body adapts on a metabolic level.

And so, even during the diet break, we still have to monitor our progress and adjust the diet plan.

Keep in mind that weight fluctuations will hapen, which is something we MUST NOT stress on.

When to diet break?

binge dieting

Including a diet break logically means that the total dieting time will increase.

However! The end result will be of higher quality, the process will feel less painful and free and on top of that, the whole thing will be sustainable, rather than exhausting.

The last thing we are looking for in a diet is for it to cause us to burnout mentally or physically.

If you’re not in a rush, I highly recommend including diet breaks.

If you’re in a rush, I highly recommend not being in a rush.

Again – A diet break DOES NOT mean ditching the diet, but rather slightly bumping the calories up to maintenance and taking a break from the DEFICIT.

How to diet break

Well, it’s not really something big to explain, it is rather plain and simple.


  • At the start of the diet, your daily maintenance needs were 2500 calories.
  • You entered a deficit and started consuming 2100 calories consistently.
  • A couple weeks go by and you need to further decrease food, because weight loss stalled

That’s exactly when you know the body achieved a metabolic adaptation! Time for a diet break.

  • Keeping in mind that our TDEE dropped, we slightly increase calories back up to maintenance
  • That is to say that if initially, we were able to maintain at 2500, the TDEE would now probably right around 2300-2400 calories
  • Maintain 2400 calories daily for 10-14 days, all while monitoring and adjusting as needed
  • Get back to deficit

Diet breaks can be included every 2-4 weeks, depending on how much you stall and how you feel mentally.

How to keep the weight off

You lost some weight and reached the desired number on the scale, YAAY!

You can now go back to binge eating and not taking care of your eating habits!

Well, not really though.

As mentioned, your eating habits should be something sustainable, which you want to stick to in the long term.

SO many people get it wrong… Everybody wants to lose weight quickly and then act as if they never had the problem in the first place.

Statistically, the majority of people losing weight, regain 100%+ of it in 2 times as less time as it took them to get down to that weight.

The problem of those people is that they don’t understand how the body works.

Now please…

diet donuts

Pay close attention. This may sound a bit off-topic, but just follow my thought.

Losing weight and dieting is a form of controlled starvation, in which the body does its best to keep you at the baseline (maintenance), to sustain homeostasis (biological balance).

That is, as we said, the metabolic adaptation, during which the levels of maintenance energy requirements
drop down.

From a purely natural standpoint, the purpose of each being is to reproduce.

And if you starve, that certainly won’t happen, as systems will start shutting down.

On the flipside, if you get too heavy (fat) you wouldn’t be able to escape natural predators.

The modern day environment in which humans live, does not put us in a danger of
death by predation.

However, with the abundance of processed foods nowadays, humans can get too fat quite easily.

And that modern-day environment I’m talking about, has been around for just a couple of decades.

That is exactly why the body has not really established solid weight-control mechanisms, when it comes to GAINING weight.


The mechanisms that the body has for periods of starvation are FAR MORE DEVELOPED.

That is probably due to the fact that throughout ages, the human species has faced far too many periods with little to no food, as opposed to such with the current levels of abundance.

Starvation mode

Once you’re in this so-called “controlled starvation mode”, which dieting is, the body starts stimulating all the systems responsible for storing fat.

The one thing your body literally thinks of is “If I get my hands on some more food than I currently have, I’ll store it as fat, because I’ll be in a deficit of energy for god knows how long more!”

So, dieting is literally priming the body for fat gains!

The point here?

Getting and staying in shape mustn’t be viewed as something that has an endpoint.

As cliche as it sounds, it is a lifestyle that ultimately has a goal of keeping us healthy when we’re old too!

Adhering to and sustaining healthy habits, such as good nutrition and plenty of movement, will only have positive effects on the quality of life, if done correctly.

So, how do you keep the weight off in that case?

It’s plain and simple- Whatever it is that you did to achieve a healthy weight loss, just keep doing it.

In the long term, it will only be beneficial, if properly monitored and adjusted.

Habits to keep the weight off

how to keep the weight off

As you should know, how your body looks is nothing but an expression of your eating and moving habits.

Here are practical tps to slowly get your metabolism back to normal after a period of eating at a deficit

  • Gradually bump calories

Often called “Reverse dieting”, the gradual increase in calories is a systematic approach to keeping the weight off.

Note – Gaining weight back after the diet is normal, but as I said earlier, the goal is to not gain too much weight drastically.

Start off with increasing your daily intake by 30-50 calories per week.

Monitor your weight.

If it stays pretty much the same, bump up with 50-80 calories more, then 100, and so, until you have a total increase of 400-500 calories, over the period of 6-8 weeks.

  • Keep tracking and adjusting

As I said, diet breaking and keeping the weight off doesn’t mean ditching the whole thing.

While increasing the calories gradually, monitor your weight and adjust as needed.

Start off by adding some carbohydrates, then some fat and optionally protein.

Stick to your established habits and make them a part of who you are.

  • Keep exercising

A lot of people may ask why exercising is important for keeping the weight off.

Well, it is simple, exercising makes the brain more sensitive to satiety signals.

What that means for you is that when there is an absence of physical activity, you will be much more likely to overeat & binge on crap food.

The number 1 thing to keep the weight off? Conscious restraint.

  • Transition to a building period

Even for the females reading this, gaining SOME muscle is always a plus.

Don’t worry, ladies. Unless you’re dedicated to a fully structured training and nutrition plan for a decade, you won’t get bulky.

As we know, muscle mass requires more energy to be maintained and can also expand more energy, as it is an active tissue (it can do work).

Therefore, having more muscle increases your total daily energy expenditure and last but not least, it makes you look better naked.

Be able to eat more while looking better? Sign me the hell up.

The transitioning to a building period includes a couple of things:

  • Slowly introducing heavier working weights with less repetitions
  • Include more rest times between sets (Heavier weights = more stress on the neuromuscular system)
  • Slowly introduce more food and carbs to your diet

Bottom line

Weight loss, muscle gain and any fitness activity for that matter, should be sustainable, rather than excruciating.

The goal is maintaining that fitness well into your adult years.

Specifically for weight loss, we’re looking to avoid crash dieting – Severe deprivations of food, sudden weight loss and regain after that, also known as yo-yo dieting.

The goal is to put the body in a slight deficit, so that it can tap into the energy reserve which fats are, but also give the body enough food for it to sustain a healthy inner environment & grant energy for physical activities.

Ultimately, we’re aiming to include diet breaks every couple of weeks, where we bump up the calories to maintenance, keeping in mind that we’re at a lower level of maintenance calories than when we initially started.

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